Superintendent’s Office

January 13, 2022

Dear Parents/Caregivers,

Hanover School Division remains committed to keeping our community informed and updated with new information as it becomes available. Today, we are providing an update regarding the return to in-class learning, contact tracing and case management in schools, mask enhancement guidance, and indoor athletic event restrictions.

Return to In-Class Learning
With the return to in-class learning on Monday, Jan. 17, all schools will be operating at the Restricted (Orange) level of the MB provincial pandemic response system. Learn more about the measures for Kindergarten to Grade 12 schools at the Restricted (Orange) level.

We need to do all we can to maintain a healthy student population and workforce for the foreseeable future. This is critical as we anticipate staffing shortages and student absenteeism due to the highly contagious nature of the virus. Contingency plans are being developed to mitigate such disruptions.

Schools may need to reorganize classes or cohorts when required due to staff illness, isolation, and absenteeism. All efforts will be made to group students with their existing cohorts; however, if necessary, students may be reassigned to substitutes or specialist teachers or cohorts combined.

In the unfortunate event that sufficient staff coverage is unavailable, classes may need to be closed or moved to remote temporarily. The length of time will depend on staff illness and the availability of substitute staff. We will do our very best to communicate this to parents/caregivers the day prior. Please note that this communication may come in the evening, so we ask parents/caregivers to monitor their email, school websites, and social media for updates. We understand this is an inconvenience and a tight timeline; however, we need to maximize time to allow us to attempt to fill the staff vacancies.

Parents are also reminded that depending on the extent of staff illness, it is plausible the whole school could be impacted, resulting in a move to remote learning. Public Health or the school division may direct this shift.

In much the same way staffing shortages could impact our schools, our transportation department may also be affected. If staffing shortages result in the temporary cancellation of bus routes, notices will be posted on the divisional website, and an email notification will be sent to those affected.

COVID-19 Contact Tracing and Case Management in Schools
As announced today, public health officials are updating guidance for COVID-19 contact tracing and case management in Manitoba schools. View the provincial news release.

Moving forward, schools will no longer provide close contact notification and notification letters on individual cases but will provide reports of absenteeism through their regular notification channels to their school community.

Schools will monitor staff and student absenteeism rates and self-reported COVID-19 cases. In addition, public health will continue to report confirmed cases through the online dashboard and monitor confirmed cases in schools for evidence of increased transmission above levels expected in the community. When there is increased COVID-19 activity based on absenteeism, case counts or operational concerns, public health will investigate and provide recommendations to school officials.

In situations where public health determines increased transmission may be occurring in a school, they may recommend the implementation of a period of rapid antigen testing or other preventive measures in school, such as reducing higher-risk activities. Where transmission continues to increase or where COVID-19 cases are affecting school operations, a seven-day period of remote learning for the class, cohort, or school may be recommended by public health.

Students or staff who test positive on a PCR test or rapid antigen test, or suspect they have COVID-19, are required to follow public health isolation protocols and are strongly encouraged to notify the school. School staff and students should attend a test site if they have signs and symptoms of COVID-19.

Students and staff who are exposed at school can continue to attend as long as they are asymptomatic. Household close contacts who are exempt from isolation but have a case in their household are encouraged to use rapid tests to monitor for asymptomatic transmission, as household contact remains the highest-risk setting for transmission.

Mask Enhancement Guidance
The province has issued mask enhancement guidance for schools. Please review the following protocols in effect at your child’s school while in the Restricted (Orange) level:

  • Non-medical masks are required indoors for all K to 12 students. This requirement includes wearing masks in the classroom and while riding the bus. Masks may be removed indoors for the purpose of eating, drinking and short, infrequent mask breaks where there is physical distancing of two metres (six feet). Where possible, the focus should be on wearing a mask that fits the face well and has multiple layers, including at least three layers. Masks can be provided by schools to students if forgotten/needed.
  • Students must also wear a mask while in the gym, even while participating in athletic activity.
  • All teachers and staff, including substitute staff, are required to wear medical-grade masks. Medical-grade disposable masks have been issued to all schools. N95 masks are not required as these masks are to be reserved for medical personnel and KN95 masks are not medical-grade masks.

For more information on masks, please visit Mask Guidance for Manitobans.

Indoor Athletic Events
Due to the recent increase of COVID-19 cases in Southern Manitoba, HSD has paused spectator access to indoor athletic events. This temporary restriction will be in effect for January but will be re-evaluated at the end of the month. Schools will continue to live-stream their basketball home games, and the host team will provide video links on the school’s website.

Return of Technology Devices
Please remember to return any HSD technology devices that were on loan this past week (remote learning). Devices should be returned to your child’s school on Monday, Jan. 17.

As always, the Hanover School Division will continue to follow the Public Health Orders and Manitoba Education guidance to ensure the safety of our students, staff, and school communities. Thank you for your continued support, cooperation, and patience.

Respectfully,

Shelley Amos, Interim Superintendent/CEO
Hanover School Division

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